Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives


At the Ballpark – Winthrop Ballpark, Rock Hill, SC
March 5, 2011, 11:48 pm
Filed under: 2011, Reviews

 

Winthrop Ballpark - Rock Hill, SC - Click photo for more photos of this visit

Most people know of Rock Hill, South Carolina – if they know of it at all – as a “bedroom community” about 20 minutes southwest of Charlotte. Bankers and other professionals who prefer the quieter life to the hustle and bustle of the “big city” often call Rock Hill their home. What you may not know about Rock Hill is that it has a little baseball history, as well.

Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson led four consecutive minor league teams to pennants in the mid-to-late 60s, and the first one was the Rock Hill Cardinals of 1965. That Western Carolinas League champ was not loaded with future big league talent, but having Sparky running your club doesn’t hurt. Rock Hill fielded minor league teams at Legion Park in 1947-48, and at the corner of York and White in Municipal Stadium from 1949-68.

Though it is no longer the home of affiliated baseball, Rock Hill is still home to the highly-lauded Winthrop University. Winthrop is consistently one of the highest-performing institutions in the Southeast, and has earned a ton of accolades. Is their baseball facility as great as the university? Let’s find out.

Concessions: A-

As college parks go, there’s a lot of variety at Winthrop Ballpark. There are no hamburgers or cheeseburgers here, but there are barbecue sandwiches (a staple in this part of the country), Chick-fil-A sandwiches and several other choices. The park also offers pretzels, nachos, pizza, peanuts (roasted and boiled), hot dogs, corn dogs, ice cream, chips and candy. Just about all of the prices are reasonable, with the sandwiches the most expensive items at $4. They even have Dr. Pepper, for those like my father who are connoisseurs of the caramel-colored treat.

The one downfall was the popcorn, which was $2.50 for a tiny box of popcorn. I didn’t bother to try it, but that appeared to be the lone questionable choice in an otherwise decent grouping of selection and value.

Atmosphere: A

This is, plain and simple, a comfortable ballpark. There is plenty of room to move around, a group of respectful and supportive fans and an ample seating bowl. There are occasionally a few goofy sound effects, but the same person who does the public address announcing for the triple-A White Sox affiliate Charlotte Knights a few miles up the road is also on the microphone at Winthrop.

Winthrop has a large video board, but it is mainly used for the in-stadium Bingo game and player/team graphics. There is a large clock on the scoreboard (this helped quell my habit of checking my watch every five minutes) and a pitch speed section. Though the radar gun appeared to be off at times, it was a nice touch to have on the scoreboard.

Sight lines: B

For those who have read my reviews for a while, you will know there is one thing I hate in ballparks, and it is excessive netting. There is a 20′ (or so) high net surrounding the entirety of the seating bowl, and no matter where your seat may be in the park, it is as though you are watching the game inside a jail cell. They announced over the PA that fans could trade in foul balls for a $5 gift card to McAlister’s Deli. The only way to get one of those, however, is to have one popped up that clears the net, or to have a line drive make the perfect carom off the top of the seating bowl.

There appears to be standing room down each baseline, and that area is free of the nets. The standing area is on the “lower” level of the park, whereas the seating bowl is accessed by stairs and rises above the playing field. The concession area is also on the lower level of the park, and the field is not visible from this area. Keep this in mind if going to get a sandwich or a soda.

Parking: A+

Winthrop has one of the best parking situations I’ve ever seen on a college campus. The athletics “complex” is all in the same area, anchored by Winthrop Coliseum. The ample lot for this 6000-plus seat facility serves as the parking area for the baseball stadium, as well as most of the other athletic fields. Simply park your car (for free!) in one of the many available spaces and enjoy the short, tree-lined walk past the tennis facility to the stadium.

Quality of baseball: A

For a game played in a relatively constant rain, this was a pretty darn enjoyable brand of baseball. Winthrop defeated visiting Notre Dame 7-2, behind a well-pitched game from starter Matteo D’Angelo. D’Angelo pitched seven strong innings, striking out three and giving up one run on five hits. Winthrop banged out 13 hits, paced by catcher Eddie Rohan’s 3-for-4 performance and a homer from Patrick Gamblin. Notre Dame received a homer from left fielder Eric Jagielo and a bases-loaded walk.

Winthrop was also extremely solid in the fundamental aspects of the game, perfectly executing a number of bunts. One of those bunts was a two-out suicide squeeze. Winthrop also hit the ball back up the middle on a number of occasions, which is exactly what a coach wants to see.

Overall grade: A-

This is the second collegiate tournament I have attended this year, and the experience at this one was considerably better than the first. Winthrop has one of the nicest facilities in the Big South Conference (if not the entire Southeast), plenty of reasonably-priced seats for everyone and a good brand of baseball. I really enjoyed my trip to Winthrop Ballpark, and I definitely plan to be back sometime soon.

One other tip that I can offer is that this is one of the few parks I have visited where I have not felt completely cramped. The seats have plenty of space, and if you have long legs like I do, even the front row offers you a reasonable amount of room to move. The feeling of watching a game in a cage is not very desirable, but there’s not a lot else to make you feel bad about your trip to this facility. Should your travels bring you to Rock Hill, give this diamond in the rough (no pun intended) a try.

How to get there:

Take Interstate 77 south from Charlotte into South Carolina. Take Exit 82 A-B-C (US 21/SC 161) and continue following the signs for US 21 toward Rock Hill at the bottom of the ramp. Continue along this road past the US 21 South (Anderson Road) and US 21 Business (Cherry Road) split. Stay on US 21 Business for approximately 3 miles until reaching the sign for Winthrop Coliseum (Richmond Drive). Turn left at the light, continue past the stop sign and the parking is on the left, with the stadium on the right.

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1 Comment so far
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A very good review.This park seemed to agree with you in all respects.You apparently enjoyed your visit,as rarely do you find almost everything to your liking.I really liked the ballpark history,especially the reference to Sparky Anderson coaching there.The only thing I would question is;why no hamburgers? That is unamerican.Great review of an obviously good ballpark,except for no hamburgers,that is.

Comment by jerry wilmer




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